Imitation guns are designed to look like real guns, regardless of whether or not they are capable of discharging a projectile. They are cheap, accessible to buy on impulse and no background checks are required. The Violent Crime Reduction Act 2006 provides details of colour requirements for imitation BB guns which differentiates them from realistic imitation firearms (RIFs). Imitation guns can only be held by those over 18. It is an offence to carry an imitation gun in a public place without a legitimate reason. It is an offence to modify an imitation firearm to make it realistic.
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IDENTIFICATION Because imitation guns look like real guns it can be impossible to tell without close examination if a gun being brandished during an incident is real or an imitation, deactivated, airsoft, replica, bb, toy or paintball gun, or an airgun. Victims of armed crime are traumatised and not surprisingly unable to identify the gun being used to assault them. Media reporting is unreliable and unless guns are fired or recovered and can be authenticated they are categorised as ‘unidentified’. Many press reports which refer to ‘handguns’ are likely to involve imitation handguns and other non-licensed guns which look like handguns.
1. IMITATION GUNS – FATALITIES
There have been several instances when an individual carrying an imitation gun has been shot by police, sometimes with fatal consequences.
2. IMITATION GUNS - VIOLENT CRIME
Imitation and other non-licensed guns are frequently used to enable crimes including armed robbery, domestic violence, drug-related offences, intimidation, vandalism, threat, drive-by random shootings. Victims fear they are about to die and the consequences are traumatic and can be long lasting. Incidents can require police investigation, hospital treatment, court costs, insurance and repairs. Victims and families endure pain and suffering, time off work, loss of income and disruption to daily life. Imitation gun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the taxpayer. (See 6)
3. IMITATION GUNS - CRIMINALS BANNED FROM OWNING GUNS CAN STILL BUY IMITATION GUNS
Criminals banned by the courts from possessing guns, and those banned from possession guns by virtue of having served prison sentences, can still buy imitations and other non-licensed guns online from international suppliers, UK dealers and private sellers, forums, websites, newspapers, magazines and at car boot sales, no background checks are required.
4. IMITATION GUNS – MENTAL HEALTH, ALCOHOL AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
Imitation guns can be bought by individuals suffering from mental health issues and those involved in alcohol and drug abuse, no background checks are required.
5. IMITATION GUNS – COST TO THE PUBLIC
Imitation gun crime has financial cost implications for society and for individuals in terms of police time, the judiciary, insurance, local authority services, time off work, disruption to daily life, commerce, industry, transport. Imitation gun crime is paid for by individuals, the community and the tax payer.
6. IMITATION GUNS – CAPABLE OF CONVERSION TO DEADLY FIREARMS
There have been a number of prosecutions in relation to illegal commercial ‘gun factories’ converting imitation guns, some organised on an industrial scale involving large numbers of weapons. Several such enterprises have been run by ex-military individuals, dealers and gun collectors.
Section 38 of the 2006 Violent Crime Reduction Act specifies that an imitation firearm, irrespective of the type of firearm of which it is an imitation, will not be considered to be a realistic imitation firearm (RIF) if it is of a specified principal colour i.e. (i) bright red (ii) bright orange (iii) bright yellow (iv) bright green (v) bright pink (vi) bright purple; and (vii) bright blue (viii) or transparent. It is an offence to paint or modify an imitation firearm.
7. IMITATION GUNS – IRRESPONSIBLE STORAGE AND THEFT
Unlike licensed guns imitation guns are not subject to any safe storage conditions. They are left in cupboards and drawers in homes, outhouses, sheds , vehicles, boats caravans etc. where security is inadequate and they are stolen by petty criminals.
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